I believe my dad taught me how to live my life.
I received a phone call from my mother less than a month into my college career. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 42 and it had already spread to his lymph system. They didn’t expect him to live past Christmas. I had noticed that he was losing weight rather rapidly, but I was 18, self-absorbed, and spending lots of time with my high school friends and boyfriend the summer before I left for school so I wasn’t overly concerned. Plus, my dad wasn’t around a lot for me to worry about him. Right before I began high school, he took a promotion at his job that sent him to London, Singapore, and Australia for at least months at a time. At one point, he spent over a year in London. He had to miss a lot of family events. It wasn’t certain that he would make it to my high school graduation, but somehow he did.
After the phone call, I had to decide whether I wanted to stay in school and commute home on weekends (luckily I was at school in-state so this was an option), or postpone school for awhile. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made and sometimes I still question whether I made the right one, but I decided to stay in school. I scheduled all my classes Mon-Thurs. and made sure to get home Fri-Sun.
On one of my visits home, my dad reflected on his life and the choices he had made. He said he wished he hadn’t taken that promotion, and I think he sincerely meant it. My mother and father were living for the future. Their retirement was going to be great. They had already bought a beach house and had great travel plans. But they were making huge sacrifices in the interim. They rarely saw each other and sometimes couldn’t even find a way to call each other because of the different time zones.
Years later, I am just beginning my legal career. I was lucky enough to have opportunities when I graduated and decided to try life at a large firm. So far it is ok, but sometimes, when it is getting close to 9pm and I’m still at the office, or when I have to go in on a Saturday, or when I listen to people talk about how they billed 20 hours in one day, I remember my father and what is important in life. I make sure to go home to my husband and I think about whether I really want that promotion.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.